In an email sent to students on Feb. 28, Student Development announced to the student body, for the first time, its plan to transition the Kea-Guffin (KG) and Gough residence halls into fully-first year student buildings for the 2022-2023 academic year. This means that any upperclassmen currently residing in KG or Gough will not have the option of renewing their room, and other upperclassmen cannot choose to live in these buildings.
In the email, Student Development refers to these halls as first year “learning communities”. Residence Life will assign students to “custom groups” that will offer students specific programming to meet certain needs. In the past, first-year students have been integrated into residence halls with upperclassmen, with the exception of Eagle and Sparrowk halls, which have been reserved exclusively for second-year students and above.
Many students have expressed strong feelings about this decision. On March 8, the Student Government Association (SGA) published a letter to leadership on Instagram, expressing their disagreement with the decision and disappointment that more student voices were not consulted in the process. “I personally believe the culture will change at Eastern; we have already seen a culture change with KG and the maturity level of the students who presently live here and I believe that the culture will continue to change in ways that I don’t think anybody was necessarily expecting,” said SGA Executive president, Xeyah Martin, when asked about the effects he thought all-freshman housing will have on the student body.
Other students expressed concerns about the housing changes as well. Derek Hamer is a senior and a Resident Assistant (RA) in Kea, and is concerned about the current state of Kea becoming the norm in upcoming years. “There’s a lot of young people running around, and often their choices have no repercussions because there’s no older students setting a standard for how to behave,” said Hamer. Issues like stolen exit signs plagued the mostly first-year housing of KG this year, and residents and RAs alike ponder over what will happen to KG and Gough next year if this behavior continues.
Junior RA Emily Beck also offered insightful feedback about the housing change. Beck expressed concerns about the well-being of the RAs who are assigned to all-freshmen halls. “My first concern is that I basically lived it this year; I felt so lonely as a junior,” said Beck. When Beck asked residence life if there were plans in place to support older RAs in freshmen halls next year, she was told there are not. Beck also commented that when she was a freshmen, she lived in a hall with other freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and enjoyed it. If she had an issue she didn’t feel comfortable going to an RA with, she could ask one of the older girls for guidance. Beck is worried about the lack of interaction with upperclassmen freshmen will receive next year.
Not all students gave entirely negative feedback about the new housing policies. Some students like the ideas behind the change; forming more community within residence halls and giving freshmen more resources to face first-year challenges. “I think if it’s done well, it could be a really good way to introduce freshmen to a form of college living. However, I’m not sure we have the resources to do it well,” one RA shared.
Regardless of student response, Student Development and Housing seem clear in their intention to fully transition KG and Gough into first-year “learning communities” by the 2023-2024 academic year. The effects of this decision on students, residence life staff, and facilities will have impacts, good or bad, on the Eastern University community for years to come.